A New You – Six Options for Better Presentation Skills in 2014

Begin anew today – Most people view the start of a new year as the perfect time to jolt their lives with commitments to new endeavors.  Of course, new beginnings are possible every minute of any day.  It’s just that January, with its delivery of a new year, seems so right as the time to begin something new.  Let the genesis of this year grant you an opportunity to become a better presenter.  Say, “In 2014 I’ll improve my speaking and presentation skills by doing  (Blank).”  Need a suggestion?  You can fill in the blank with one of the following six options:

1) Embody the words of Garr Reynolds:  Garr Reynolds has three books on presenting.  Buy all three.  Read all three.  Apply his words to your presentations.  Garr has a Zen manner of presenting from which most speakers could benefit.  Novice presenters will develop better presentation skills faster.  Seasoned presenters will learn how to present with less effort.

2) Take a class on acting or improvisation:  The ability to “think on your feet” is crucial to presenters.  It’s a skill that’s best learned off stage.  Find a local theatre or improv group and take lessons.  Explore the basic elements of theatre.  Learn how to use your voice more effectively.  Embrace the theatrical nature of presenting.  Practice these skills (Yes, you can practice improvisation.) and you’ll be more competent and capable during future presentations.

Watch your 6 options for better presentation skills.

Become a better speaker in 2014.

3) Accept all public speaking opportunities: Speak more often.  Take every chance, big and small, to stand in front of an audience and deliver a message.  Be the person who is willing to speak for your company, association, or cause.  Actual face-time is the only way to improve your public speaking skills.  Use short talks to try something different.  Use long presentations, 20 – 40 minutes, to work on one particular skill, e.g., speaking more clearly, having more eye contact with your audience, or using fewer speaker notes.

4) Present naked: Naked presenting is presenting without slides.  Too many speakers hide behind their slide deck.  They’re afraid to present without brightly lit visuals.  Don’t fall into that trap.  Leave your slide deck at the office.  Create deeper connections with your audience by always facing them, instead of looking at your projected slides.

5) Let the audience evaluate your presentation:  Use evaluations cards at every presentation.  You’ll quickly learn what your audience really thinks about your presentation skills.  Did you start off strong?  Was there enough time for Q & A?  Did you end with a bang or a whimper?  Use a simple evaluation card to find out.  Then, make adjustments based on the responses from your audience.  Their comments will let you view your presentation from the best judges, your audience. 

6) Video your presentations:  See the reality of your speaking style.  Watching yourself present is the only way to know what you really say and do while in front of an audience.  Today’s mobile devices make it easy.  Just place your recording device on a stable surface.  Let it record as you present.  Review your video several times, with sound on and with the sound off.  Take notes and zone in on the areas that need improvement. 

Now it’s up to you.  Some of the options are more daunting than others.  Reading Garr Reynolds is easy, but presenting without slides might be more challenging.  Great beginnings should take you out of your comfort zone.  Be bold.  Do something different.  The key is to take action.  As for timing?  Begin something new today.  Start now.  Make a commitment to improving your presentations skills.  Don’t make 2014 just another year.  Make it a great year.

Receive weekly tips on presentations skills: Connect with Charles on LinkedIn or Twitter (@CharlesGreene3).  For his archive of presentations tips, visit his weekly presentation tips page.

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Pecha Kucha: 5 Steps to excellence

Pecha Kucha.  Never heard of it?  It’s a simple presentation structure: 20 slides every 20 seconds (20 x 20).  The slides auto advance.  Once the first slide appears, the presentation does not end until the last slide leaves 6 minutes and 40 seconds later.  The presenter delivers a story that relates to the slides.  Below are 5 steps to Pecha Kucha excellence.

The format of Pecha Kucha was created in 2003 by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham, two European architects who work in Japan.  They designed the structure as a method to condense and limit the presentations of their fellow architects.  Their colleagues, when presenting in front of an audience, tend to talk forever.  This scenario is not exclusive to architects; everyone who presents has this problem.  To meet this challenge they devised Pecha Kucha, Japanese for “Chit Chat.”

Can you Pecha Kucha?  Yes, you can.  Everyone can do it.  Any subject can be presented in Pecha Kucha format.  All you have to do is pick your subject, develop a story, and then select your images.  Choose a subject that you really like as you’re going to spend a lot of time with it.

To do an impressive Pecha Kucha, you’ll need to practice your presentation so that you can smoothly go through all 20 slides without notes.  You can use notes, but it’s only 20 slides.  You can do it – if you practice.  Not using notes will let you engage with your audience.  That’s what Pecha Kucha is all about, sharing your favorite subject with other people. 

Pecha Kucha Night Bemidji, Minnesota - Houdini Pecha KuchaAround the globe Pecha Kucha is performed as an entertainment forum, Pecha Kucha Nights.  Many corporations and associations use the Pecha Kucha framework as a way to “tame” long-winded presenters.  Everyone gets 6 minutes and 40 seconds to present his or her idea.  In business settings, the short presentations are generally followed with lengthy Q&A sessions that help flesh out details of the subject.

I’ve delivered a Pecha Kucha in a variety of places: a corporate workshop in Washington, DC; a PowerPoint conference in Scottsdale, AZ; and at an official Pecha Kucha Night in Bemidji, MN.  The subject of my Pecha Kucha is Houdini; it’s his life story in 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

Pecha Kucha, like the other formal structures, i.e. sonnets, haiku, and limericks, might seem limiting.  However, within the structure that restricts, numerous options are possible.  From the initial creation to the third public presentation of Houdini Pecha Kucha I’ve learned a many new things about the structure and how to work with it. Here are some suggestions from my experience that will assist you.

Video: 5 Steps to Pecha Kucha Excellence

5 Steps to Pecha Kucha excellence

Start in analog Use 3 inch x 5 inch note cards to capture your main ideas.  Each card will translate into a potential slide. For each idea, write out 3 short sentences that expound on that idea.  When spoken aloud in a conversational tone, your spoken words can quickly fill 20 seconds.  Houdini Pecha Kucha started out with an initial set of 30 cards. Some of the main ideas were Houdini’s birth, his name, his escapes, and his death.

Edit your story in analog Sort, shift, and remove cards until you get a final 20 cards that tell a cohesive story. Your story can be chronological or thematic.  One way to bend the Pecha Kucha structure to your advantage is to tell your story in a “Top 10” format.  Use 5 slides to introduce your subject.  Do the “Top 10” with 10 slides.  Conclude with 5 more slides.  If your subject is a trip, divide your story and slides into a “before, during, and after.” 

Select your images Find strong visual images to match each of your selected 20 cards.  Your images will be seen on a large screen.  Make sure that your image files are the right resolution.  Select the best images to go with each topic.

Houdini Pecha Kucha in Bemidji, Minnesota

Move to digital Create a set of slides based on your note cards and story. Go big with your images, as your slides should have little or no text.  Animation is allowed, but if choose to use it, keep it simple and limit it to just a couple of slides.  Houdini Pecha Kucha had three animations in 20 slides.

Practice a lot Practice as much as you can and more than you think you need to.  It’s the only way to get your presentation to flow.  You’ll probably discover that you’ve got too much information for each slide. Audience reaction will also change your timing.  My advice is that you go for less.  Give some “performance” to your Pecha Kucha.  Be dramatic.  Add your own personal flair.  Have fun.

Special Pecha Kucha technique #1: In Houdini Pecha Kucha, the final three slides cover one topic.  This provides 60 seconds of space, an eternity in Pecha Kucha, to “hover” on the topic.  This space lets you adjust your timing and flow.  “Hover” space in Pecha Kucha is invaluable.

Special Pecha Kucha technique #2: To assist in learning Houdini Pecha Kucha I recorded my PowerPoint slide presentation as a movie.  I then placed the movie on my IPhone.  Carrying Houdini Pecha Kucha presentation in my pocket let me practice the presentation anytime and anywhere that I had a spare 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

Take a look at each of the Houdini Pecha Kucha presentations.  The delivery of the story and the connection with the audience improve with time.  The latest one, Bemidji Pecha Kucha Night, reveals that some improvisation is possible. I was able to add a couple of “off the cuff” remarks, while still meeting the time restraint.  The added remarks made the rigid structure less formal.

FYI: There’s another slide presentation format called “Ignite.’  Like Pecha Kucha there are 20 slides, however with “Ignite” each slide auto advances after 15 seconds, making each “Ignite” presentation 5 minutes. 

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Create Memorable Presentations: Be Impressive & Engaging

Deliver memorable presentations:  Do you want your information remembered long after you’ve left the room?  Then structure your presentations with two important features.  Be impressive and engaging.  Impress and engage your presentation audiences and your messages will be memorable.  Implement the following technique in your upcoming presentations and you’ll see a vast improvement in your public speaking results and your audience’s ability to recall your message points.

Impress your audience:  Memorable presentations have a strong start and a strong finish.  Audience attention levels are highest at the beginning and end of a presentation, thus, be strong at those two critical points.  Start strong.  Don’t begin your presentation with an agenda slide or information about you and your company.  Start with information that directly affects your audience.  Let them know that the presentation is for them.  End strong.  Don’t end your presentation with the Q&A.  End with a strong restatement of your key points that relate to your audience.

Engage your audience: Memorable presentations connect with participants on as many levels as possible.  Use spatial movement to get close to them.  Move away from the podium and stroll among them. Use vocal variety to change your tone and pace.  Let them hear your emotions.  Use facial expressions to reveal your feelings.  Call them by name and really bring them to attention.

Be impressive by employing a strong start and finish.  Be engaging by using spatial, vocal, and facial variety.  Structuring your presentations to include these two elements will set you lightyears apart from most speakers.  Long after you’ve left the room, have your presentation message remembered.  Impress.  Engage.

MemorableBonus: Want more assistance in creating a memorable presentation?  Here’s an article from Presentation Magazine by Charles, “You get one chance to make a first impression.”  Learn six ways to open your presentations with a strong start. 

From the article, “Your start should be strong, confident, and engaging.  It should provide the audience with absolute assurance that you are worth their time. All attention is focused on you, so it’s critical that you open strong as it sets the bar for your presentation that follows.” – Charles Greene III Presentation Magician


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Summer 2013 Presentation Skills Reading List – Dive into three books that will improve your public speaking skills

Charles Greene Summertime Presentation Skills reading listMemorial Day has come and gone.  It’s officially summer.  It’s time for the 2013 Summer Presentation Skills Reading List.  DC’s had it’s full share of rain, so the Summer heat and humidity can not be far off.  The Greene family will be heading off to the beaches of Bethany and Rehobeth in Delaware.  Yes, lots of Thrashers Fries will be consumed.  In August we’ll zip up to upper Minnesota, near Hackensack, MN, for a couple weeks at a family lakeside cabin. 

2013’s Summer Presentation Skills Reading List consists of books that are designed for speakers who aspire to take their presentation skills to the next level. If you’re giving presentations on a regular basis, then you’ll relate to many of the stories in the books.  Apply the information to your presentations and you’ll be a better speaker by the Tuesday after Labor Day.  Have a fun, safe, and magical Summer.

2013 Summer Presentation Skills Reading List

1) The Naked Presenter by Garr Reynolds

2) Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun

3) Paid to Speak from the National Speakers Association

Video: Summer Presentation Skills Reading List

Grab a Gold Star. Read an additional book from a previous Summer Presentation Skills Readings List.  Have a fun, safe, and magical summer.

2012 Summer Presentation Skills Readings List Presentations in Action by Jerry Weissman; Boring to Bravo by Kristin Arnold: Mastery by George Leonard

2011 Summer Presentation Skills Readings List Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds; Resonate by Nancy Duarte; The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo

Charles’ June 2013 Presentation Skills newsletter: Get tips & techniques to improve your presentations.

Want more presentation tips? Watch Charles’ videos on speaking and presentation skills or read Charles’ weekly presentation tips. From the fundamentals of speaking to PowerPoint pointers, Charles covers all aspects of public speaking.  Have a specific presentation question?  Send him a message.  Even during the summer, he’ll respond to your presentation skills questions.

Charles Greene III Presentation Magician
Washington, DC


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Got chops? Are your presentation skills really ready?

Recently Billy Joel, of “Piano Man” fame, held “An Evening of Questions and Answers and a Little Bit of Music” at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. During the Q&A portion, Michael Pollack, a student, asked Mr. Joel if he could accompany him on piano for “New York State Of Mind.”  Billy Joel, the composer of the classic ode to Manhattan said, “Okay.”  A buzz then took over the crowded room.  See the video below for the performance and interaction between Mr. Joel and Michael Pollack.

Watch the video of Billy Joel & Michael Pollack.

Would you discuss quantum physics with Stephen Hawking?  Play singles with Serena Williams?  Con Ricky Jay?  Are you ready for your moment in the spotlight?  Michael Pollack had chutzpah.  He also had confidence in his preparation.  He was ready for his moment.

Charles in Central Park – New York State of Mind

Michael Pollack’s 3 areas of readiness:
1) Ready to request.
  Michael Pollack was willing to stand up and state his request.  He had the confidence to know that this was his moment and that he was ready for it.  All he had to do was make his request known.

Regardless of how wonderful your idea may be, it requires that you have the confidence to put it out there.  The world is filled with great ideas.  Most do not get heard, because people are afraid to share their ideas with other people.  Be ready to share your idea with the rest of the world.

2) Ready to fulfill the request.  Malcolm Gladwell has stated that it takes about 10,000 hours devoted to a particular talent to reach a level of Mastery with that skill.  Michael Pollack demonstrated that he had put in those hours.  When Billy Joel asks “What key do you play it in?, Michael responds, “What key do you want?”  That’s Mastery.

With speaking, it can take over 300 presentations to match Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Theory.” Experience & long-term commitment impacts skill.  Practice your presentation skills so that you can exceed expectations of your audiences.  Be ready for your moment in the spotlight.

3) Ready to stay within his role.  When Michael Pollack sat at the piano, Billy Joel confers with him for just a moment.  Michael Pollack then played the song well, very well.  He never took over or strayed from his role as the guest accompanist.  In jazz they call this “playing it straight.”

In speaking, many presenters don’t “play it straight.”  They speak beyond their given time slots.  They try to outshine others speakers when on a panel.  They break out the thesaurus to impress their audience.  It’s always better to “play it straight.”  Take less time than your allotted time to deliver your message.  Be supportive of  your audience.  Use clear words, especially when explaining intricate ideas.

Confidence without preparation: A plan for disaster
Many people believe that they can “wing” it when it comes to speaking and giving presentations.  They don’t put in the time before the presentation to properly prepare, know their audience, select the the best structure for their message, or practice their presentation.  Unfortunately, we all know of lots examples of people taking the stage without being ready, without having prepared for their moment before an audience.

“Winging it” is dangerous.  Remember Clint Eastwood and “The Chair?”  Great actor, but the his last minute decision to try something different, left a lot of people wondering, “What was that all about.?  That’s not the impression you want to leave with the your presentation audience.

Be ready for your moment.  Polish your presentation skills
Everyone can be a better public speaking.  Everyone can improve their presentation skills. To do so it takes time and dedication.  You must be willing to practice the small and big things of presenting.  You must read the books, blogs, and notes of great speakers.  You must present whenever possible so that you can attain your 10,000 hours needed to reach Mastery.  Do all this and you’ll have a nice set of “presentation chops.”

Have thoughts about being ready and practicing your presentation skills?  Leave a comment below.

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Public Speaking Video 101: 3 Basic camera options for presentation skills training

Public speaking?  See for yourself.
Take a giant leap forward towards becoming a better and more confident public speaker.  Use video to improve your public speaking skills by seeing what’s really going on with your presentation skills.  If you’ve never seen yourself speak, chances are that you do something of which you’re not aware.  Most presenters have some tic, habit, or mannerism that distracts their audience.  Until they see themselves on video, they don’t realize they do “x” while speaking.  Video yourself and review the video at least three times.  Then make adjustments for improvement.

Video is now easier than ever.
When you video your public speaking presentation, this final product is not destined for your local Cineplex; it’s simply for viewing on your computer screen. You don’t even have to edit this footage.  Getting started is neither expensive nor difficult.  In fact, you may already have most of what you need.  If not, your initial investment could be as low as $150 – $250.  After purchasing the equipment, the rest is easy; it just takes commitment.

Get basic gear.
Here are a few recommendations for basic video equipment: a small camcorder, phone video recorder, or camera with video capacity.  You’ll want to place your video device on a tripod or some stabilizing unit.  You could use a larger more professional camera, but for most situations you’ll want a small and non-obtrusive camera.  See my specific equipment recommendations and sample video links below.

Watch the video for 3 video camera options.

Can you here me now? Don’t forget the audio.
Along with the video portion of your recording, make sure you have fairly clean audio.  It doesn’t have to be perfect; interruptions for applause or laughter may be fine.  Set your recording device at the back of the room.  Placing it near a speaker will help it pick up your voice.  Alternatively, you can record your voice separately with a pocket device, but that adds another layer to this task.

Watch & learn.
Once you have recorded your public speaking presentation, transfer it to a computer with a large monitor.  You want to see yourself on a bigger screen than one provided on the recording device.  Don’t worry about seeing yourself on the “big” screen.  No one, not even professional speakers, likes seeing himself.  But the professionals have learned that video review is a part of the process of getting better.  If you’re hesitant to see yourself, remember that your audience is seeing you, so you might as well know what they are seeing.

3 Reviews is the magic number.
Watch your video at least three times.  Review your presentation with the sound on and the sound off.  Take notes.  With the sound on, listen to what you are saying and how you say it. Do you use a lot of filler words?  Do your sentences trail off?  Is there vocal variety in your voice?  When you watch the video with the sound off, focus on your non-verbals.  Do you move around too much or not enough?  Do you connect with your audience by looking at them?  Do you gesture oddly?

Commit to use video.
If you want to be a better speaker, make the commitment to use video.  Record as many presentations as you can.  Review them and critique your speech and your style.  If you don’t like what you see, remember that you’re in control.  Make adjustments, fine tune your presentation skills, and leap towards becoming the great public speaker you want to be.  Use video to get you there.

3 Basic High Definition Video recording device suggestions:
Kodak Zi8 camcorder:  Kodak no longer makes Zi8 HD camera, but it is readily available on EBay.  This small pocket camcorder is versatile as it has an input for an external microphone.  The recording medium is an SD card.  Purchase an SD card that is at least 16 gbs. Video shot with Kodak Zi8

IPhone:  An IPhone 4/4s/5 can record video in full HD using the back camera.  Mounted on a tripod and steady mount, it will be fine.  An external mike can be plugged into the IPhone.  Various camera/video apps are available, but stick with the basic video program.  The recording media is internal, but make sure that you have enough space to record your presentation.  Remember to place your IPhone in airplane mode.  You don’t want an in-coming call to disrupt your presentation or your recording. Video shot with an IPhone 4s and Edutige microphone

Point & shoot camera: Today,  basic point & shoot cameras like Canon’s Powershot ELPH 330 can record full HD video and have wi-fi uploads.  The recording medium is an SD card.  Use one that is at least 16 gbs.  One downside of most point & shoot cameras is that they don’t have an external microphone option. Video shot with Canon ELPH with internal microphone

Extra points: Record separate video and audio.

Watch this video by Carl Kwan. You can record your video with a camera at the back of the room while recording the audio with an IPhone or digital recorder that is placed in your pocket.  This is the set up that I typically use.  This set up ensures that I get clear audio.  The microphone that I use with my IPhone is the Edutige Microphone Voice Recorder, which I highly recommend.  To add some space between you and your IPhone, get the Edutige Microphone cable kit.  It has a 50″ cord as well as an in-line volume control and headphone jack.  Final item, don’t forget to use the wind screen on your microphone.




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